Church Based After School Programs: Serving Third Culture Children – Their Struggles

If you serve the children of immigrants understand that they face struggles you may never have experienced.

Mom and Dad want them to continue the culture of their “homeland.”

  •  However, to fit in they MUST adopt the American culture –which can lead to cynicism towards their parents.
    • They know more than their parents.
    • One young man told me how he and his brother looked-down on their parents because they couldn’t speak English.
    • As the kids adopt this new-found culture mom and dad have difficulty understanding what is happening – they are filled with fear.
      • Fear of losing everything they know.
      • Fear of losing their children.

  “Mrs. Lisa I’m going to kill myself,” came the whispered voice over the phone.

Lisa’s whole body shook; what should she do? From Grace’s voice she knew she was serious. “Grace, I’ll be at your apartment in minutes.”

Lisa grabbed her jacket and ran out of her apartment and to the other side of the complex. As she ran she thanked God that He had arranged for her and her family to move into this apartment complex.

Grace, a teenager, was standing out front of her apartment, as she saw Lisa running towards her she ran to meet her. Grace threw her arms around Lisa sobbing, “Mrs. Lisa I can’t stand it everything is going wrong. Rob broke up with me, kids are saying horrible things to me at school, and my parents don’t understand anything. They just keep saying, ‘Things don’t happen like this at home.’”

 “WE AREN’T AT HOME! This is America.”

Lisa took Grace inside and talked to her mother – her father stayed on the opposite side of the room.

Lisa drove the family to the emergency ward of the closest hospital – it was a full night ordeal.

Dad sat on the opposite side of the hospital waiting room far from Lisa, Grace and the mother. It was as though he was disowning his daughter. He could not accept that this was happening, this kind of thing didn’t happen in his country he kept insisting.

In the early morning Lisa phoned me from the hospital and told me what was happening. She was frustrated because she didn’t feel they were getting the help they needed – “Do you have any thoughts Wanda?”

It is so fun to see God at work as He opens doors. I connected her with a friend who is a psychologist and she knew a Christian psychologist of the same nationality as the family who was willing to work with them at no cost.

Through family therapy things were worked out.

  • The father acknowledged he needed to look at things from his daughter’s perspective. He couldn’t continue to live in the past.
  • Grace was able to see that things in the future wouldn’t be as bleak as they were today.

A few questions for you:

  1. Are you available if something like this happens in your after school ministry?
  2. Would you know what to do?
  3. What/Who are your resources?
  4. Are you aware of the struggles of third culture kids?
  5. Do you know how to address those struggles?
    1. Do you address them?
    2. Do you talk with the kids about it – bring it out in the open?
My parents were third culture children and I heard of their struggles as I grew up. My dad couldn’t speak English when he began school – that hung over him all of his life, he brought it up often.
I believe that part of helping the kids is helping the parents to assimilate into the larger culture of America. Encourage them, and help them to find ways to move beyond their “safe haven” of other immigrants from their country of origin. 
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One response to “Church Based After School Programs: Serving Third Culture Children – Their Struggles

  1. Pingback: Serving Third-Culture Children « Ministry To Children Forums

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